Today, January 19th 2024, would have been Mom’s 82nd birthday. But sadly she is gone from this world. She has crossed the threshold from life into death. She now knows the answers to the great mysteries of what happens on the other side. I have a strong faith that she would be happy with what, rather with who, she found there. And that brings me a great peace in the midst of enormous loss.
Today lots of memories have come flooding back. Speaking of birthdays, she liked to call me on my birthday every year and sing me Happy birthday. It was always awkward and I always loved it nonetheless. And around this time of year she would also make me my favorite Newfoundland cake which is a gumdrop cake. She would then wrap it up and send it to me in the mail. It would be like a birthday/early Christmas gift that I could share with the family. That cake was always made with love and I knew she loved me with every bite I would take.
She was an incredible cook and baker. Every single Saturday morning she would bake bread and leave it out on the kitchen counter to cool and it would be so hard not to just grab a whole loaf and devour it. We would finally cut into it, put molasses and cream on it and have a cup of Tetley tea with it of course. Back then I didn’t realize how precious those times were. You never do I guess until you look back on things and realize the value of them. I guess that’s life in a nutshell…
From the very beginning she instilled a deep Christian faith in me and my 2 older sisters. From the day I was born she nurtured in me a heart of faith in God, in hospitality, in community, in sharing what we had, in caring for those who did not have, and well, in following Jesus as best I could. I think very differently now than I did then but all of those things became like muscle memory to me. All of those things in me can track back to my earliest days in my little home in a small town in Newfoundland. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
Mom was very involved in the Salvation Army Church there. She was a member of everything one could become a member of I think. She was a teacher by trade and ended up teaching my Sunday school class which at the time was also awkward for me but I look back on now and see the beauty of that as well. She wanted to impart on others this deep trust in God that she had in her heart. And she wanted me to have that more than anything else in the world. And she gave it to me in her own way.
She definitely had some hard knocks along the way. My parents divorced when I was a teenager which was brutally hard for her. But through all of that she fed and clothed me, went to work everyday faithfully, ironed my Sunday best clothes every Saturday night, and worked diligently around the house to make it neat and clean and tidy.
Which reminds me, she was intensely clean and tidy. She definitely spoiled me, being the youngest child and the boy of the house. My two older sisters did all of the work and I got away with doing nothing. I would have been a spoiled brat if that were my nature but I don’t think I became a nasty human being. I just still to this day don’t know how to make a bed and, if it weren’t for my family, my room would be littered with clothes all over the floor. But I digress. Mom spoiled me because I was her little boy whom she loved. And this was the way she showed me that she loved me.
When I finally brought Erinn home with me to Newfoundland almost 30 years ago now, they embraced upon first meeting. There was an instant bond between them. They loved each other and I loved that they loved each other. That first trip to Newfoundland for Erinn involved lots of cups of tea with carnation milk and chats around the table and beautiful meals prepared by my mom and walks around scenic parts of that part of the island of Newfoundland and the trip to a place called glassy Beach.
She traveled to Toronto for our wedding even though it was in January and she hated winter travel. We laughed at her dislike of traveling in snow. But she put up with all of that and came to our wedding which was wonderful. Then when Cate came along she was in her glee to have a granddaughter. Boy did she love Cate! When Mom died Cate pulled out a box of old photos, many of which were pictures of Mom holding her in her arms and checking out icebergs and places around the water and beautiful moments that we will never forget.
When I started to lose my balance and my ability to use my hands due to my health, Mom used to love holding my hand when we would go for walks so as I could stand straight. She also loved to help feed me when I couldn’t feed myself. Those moments were times when I could feel the love going back and forth between us. It hurt her to watch me getting sicker and I know she would have gladly taken on this disease herself and taken it from me if she could have. But she couldn’t.
Mom was a diligent and faithful person. When life got hard she would simply put her head down and grind through it so as to make sure there was food on the table and clothes to wear and a home to be in. She made sure we got the church every Sunday, well actually three times every Sunday which I’m still getting counseling for 😬, and we were in many different church groups as well which she made sure we got to.
She was obsessive about cleanliness. Everything had to be spic and span. She emptied all of her cupboards twice a year and cleaned every single item in there even though she may not have used them. She would crawl underneath tables to make sure even that part of them was clean. There was nothing anyone could do to ever match her need for there to be not one speck of dust anywhere. We made fun of her in the last few years about this and she would laugh and carry on about her work. She knew she was obsessive about it but she also knew she couldn’t do anything about it. This was who she was and she was comfortable in her own skin. I also loved that about her.
My mind is taking me to lots of different places as I’ve been writing this blog, and I don’t even know where to end with writing memories about her. So I’ll stop sharing memories at this point and talk about what she means to me. She was my mom and I loved her very much. She was not perfect, far from it, but none of us are. She tried her very best to show love to the people around her and I loved her for it.
Back to birthdays (since today would have been hers), on my last birthday in late November she didn’t call me. For the first time in my entire life I didn’t hear from my mother on my birthday. I knew then that’s something was very wrong. It wasn’t long after that that she died. The theme of her funeral was faithfulness. That word came through and through in both song and in the eulogies and in the homily. Mom was a faithful person to her faithful God to the very end. I will always carry that with me and try and emulate that kind of faithfulness. She is gone from this earth but her legacy lives on in me and my sisters. I will continue to try and be a faithful human being.
Just like my mom